With the start of free agency less than a month away, no decision has come from Steven Jackson and his camp on whether or not he will exercise his right to void the final year of his contract. March 12th is exactly 27 days away from today, yet no planned meeting has taken place between Jackson's agent and the Rams, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ultimately St. Louis wants No. 39 back in the blue and gold next season, but they want to bring his high cap number down before he's back on the roster. Per Spotrac, he carries the fifth highest cap number of all running backs heading into 2013. Only Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden and Michael Turner make more than the nine-year pro.
By season's end in 2013, Jackson cleared the 1,000-yard barrier for the eighth-straight season and he also went over 10,000 career rushing yards. Not many running backs can make those claims to fame, so it's easy to see why he is paid like one of the league's top backs.
The only problem lies within the fact that the two-time All-Pro will be 30 years old when the 2013 season starts. In running back years, age 30 is equivalent to age 50. No team wants to pay $7 million to a back that has 2,802 touches for his career.
Not to mention the fact Jackson has played all 16 games a measly three times out of the nine years he has been in the league. His body type and playing style makes him susceptible to nagging injuries that sometimes linger all season long.
Fortunately for Jackson, the Rams have never had a capable backup that could prove his worth when he missed extend periods of time. This undoubtedly proved his high dollar worth to a franchise that has been starved of offensive production outside of SJ39.
It wasn't until this past season Daryl Richardson stepped in as a rookie and shouldered 98 of the team's 410 carries. That was the highest number of carries a backup of Jackson's had ever seen since he became the starting running back in 2005.
The decrease in carries and rotation of offensive series between him and Richardson leads many to believe Jackson's workload is set to decline even farther in 2013. By no means is that a bad assumption, all things considered, which means Jackson has to think about what he wants out of his future.
Does he still want to be "the guy" or is he okay with a declining role? Honestly, his best opportunity to start may not come in St. Louis. So he may be wise to void his contract and set his eye on the ultimate prize, free-agency.
He won't rack in the $7 million he's set to make this year, but it's irrelevant considering the Rams would cut him if he didn't void the final year of his original six-year deal. That's the nature of the beast—St. Louis is tied up against the cap, so they will need all the wiggle room they can garner for the draft and other potential free-agent signings.
As you can see in the image above, the Rams have $42.3 million tied up on the defensive side of the ball and $51.1 million tied up on the offensive side of the ball. No surprise given the size of Jackson's contract; only the quarterback position makes more money than the backfield.
Aside from all the underlying factors, there is one more thing that could push SJ39 out of St. Louis—his desire to win a Super Bowl. He had this to say when Paolo Bandini of The Guardian asked him about winning: "The only thing that keeps me around, that keeps me motivated."
Obviously it's not the only that keeps him motivated because Jackson regularly fixates on personal goals and his community involvement in St. Louis and the surrounding areas. Yet at some point, he has to decide that his window is indeed closing and now is the the time to purse a Lombardi Trophy in another uniform.
Whether or not it happens is the real question mark from now until March 12. But one thing that is certain is the fact his list of potential suitors will be long if he hits the open market. One of the more vocal favorites at this point are the Green Bay Packers.
According to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen (h/t KFFL.com), the Packers have offered "significant packages" for Jackson in the past. It was also noted by Schefter and Mortensen that Packers general manager Ted Thompson "covets" the Pro Bowl running back.
With his market value from proven winners heating up, a Super Bowl ring may not be far off for SJ39.